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UNICO 20°87° Hotel Riviera Maya

Carretera Federal 307 Chetumal-Puerto Juárez Km 256 + 100, Solidaridad Quintana Roo, Mexico.

This modern, luxury, all-inclusive resort in Kante Nah bay on the Riviera Maya has three pools, plenty of bars, and a wide array of appealing restaurants. The entertainment and activities will appeal to energetic, younger travelers ready to fill their days with fun.

Unico Hotel Riviera Maya

The Spanish word unico translates as "unique." There might be nothing new about a luxury, all-inclusive hotel on Mexico's Riviera Maya, but what does set the typography challenging Unico Hotel 20°87° apart is the sense of fun and youthful energy across the resort. The large white building has a smart, sleek, modern Mexican feel with plenty of bars, a café and a "street" of restaurants, from Japanese to Mexican.

It's a place where you can easily rest by or in a pool, but guests are also encouraged to engage with activities and entertainment, including pool parties, floating yoga, aqua exercise biking. or cooking classes by day. Then there are or mixology sessions, salsa lessons, and stargazing in the evenings. Although you will find older couples here, much of UNICO's crowd is made up of sociable travelers in their 20s and 30s, ready to chat, laugh, and share a few drinks with other guests.

Unico 20 87 Hotel opened its doors in March 2017. It comes from Miami's AIC Hotel group, a company that also operates the all-inclusive Hard Rock Hotels and who recently launched Nobu Los Cabos, in Baja California.

With the hotel's longitude and latitude coordinates in the name, it would be hard to get lost. Unico 20°87° is a 15-minute drive south from Playa del Carmen or 90 minutes from Cancun Airport. You'll arrive at Kante Nah bay, an area that started to develop over the last few years after the success of Akumal Bay, which is famous for snorkeling experiences with the resident turtles.

Unico Hotel Bar

Upon arrival, you'll be immediately invited into a large air-conditioned lounge with hanging lanterns, potted tropical plants, and comfy leather couches, all with neutral, earthy colors. The staffers are youthful and the ambience is fresh. As you have a cucumber and mint welcome drink, you'll be introduced to your concierge for your stay and asked to pick one of four aromas to be used during your turn-down service. You'll also be invited to download the hotel's app to order food and drinks or to book activities. Overall, the check-in process does all take much longer than it needs to, though.

Afterwards, you'll pass by Balam Bar, a long room with wooden ceilings, rows of metal lamps, like flying saucers, and glass cabinets containing ornaments and artifacts from the ancient civilizations of this region, including Mayan pectorals. In the bar areas, you'll find pool tables, board games, and photography books.

The gym and spa are nearby, at the end of the long corridor. There's also a café serving smoothies, cakes, and sandwiches throughout the day, and a cluster resembling a street that has a wine bar, boutique shops, and restaurants. The hotel has five restaurants in total, including Japanese Yakitori and Teppanyaki in Mura House, modern Mexican in Cueva Siete, and extensive international buffet selections for breakfast and lunch down at the beachfront namesake restaurant.

You'll walk through the U-shaped building, which has 448 rooms and curves around three swimming pools. As you're introduced to your room, you'll receive two complimentary straw hats that you can personalize later with colorful paints with an artist down by the poolside.

Room at Unico Hotel

The rooms, most of which have ocean views and also look out across the swimming pools within the U, are large enough to feel comfortable. The designer has made an effort to provide a few Mexican touches, including a tapestry work from Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca, which decorates the corner. There's a king-size bed with wooden poles. Two lamps made out of natural fibers brighten each side of the room. There's a couch and a coffee table made out of a slab of local wood, with books of Mexican photography arranged on it. To settle in, you can sit by a little table in the corner and help yourself to a beer from your minibar or enjoy a welcoming bottle of Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, one of the two main house reds across the resort.

The bathroom has sliding screens that open into the bedroom area to receive more natural light. His and Hers sinks come with hanging mirrors, with plenty of amenities packed in a yellow envelope. You'll also receive vouchers that can be exchanged at the spa for personalized amenities, using extracts and essences that you select.

From the bedroom, a terrace faces out onto the pools and the Caribbean ocean. Out here, there's seating area and a freestanding white bathtub for an outdoor soak. You might wonder who'd be brave enough to bathe out in the open, as the terraces aren't exactly private—it's easy to see into many of them from the pools and common areas.

Balcon views at Unico Hotel

To start your afternoon at the hotel, you could grab a Mezcal Margarita and head down to play at one of the Ping Pong tables by the pool. There are hidden speakers throughout the property playing chilled Ibiza-style electronic music. You might want to take a dip in the swim-up bar and get yourself some sparkling wine, or you can just sit under the shade of a palm tree enjoying the sea breeze or float on the water of La Escondida swimming pool.

In the pools, at the bars and on the loungers, you'll find easy-going guests reading, sipping cold cocktails or tanning, as well as (noticeably more than at most other hotels on this coast) sociable couples and groups eager to engage in conversations and have a few drinks with new people they've met here from the US and around the world. For a stylish, luxury hotel, I welcomed the fact that everyone looked like they felt comfortable and relaxed, instead of posing or wanting to be seen.

Pool scene at Unico Hotel

At night, there's a celebratory vibe. You could start with dinner at Mi Carisa (My Love Letter), an Italian restaurant with plush, red velvet booths, blue and white flowery plates on the walls and a proper brick oven to bake fresh bread and pizza. Service here is excellent, with glasses of Merlot or Cabernet regularly refilled. If you prefer, there are plenty of cocktails to choose from, like a refreshing Rosmarino—a Gin with Aperol, grapefruit juice, rosemary syrup and tonic water.

Fried Ice Cream at Unico HotelYou'll be welcomed with a plate of cheese, olives and prosciutto, as well as bread fresh from the oven and served with a portion of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. To start, you can share a Caprese salad, a fresh Tuna Carpaccio with parmesan slices, a Penne All'arrabbiatta, or a hearty Gnocchi di Patate with a tomato sauce. The ample menu has many enticing Italian dishes, including veggie and seafood options. One of the biggest recommendations here is the mushroom-crusted beef steak, served with mushroom risotto and truffle.

If you're more in the mood for Asian food, you can visit Mura House. This elegant restaurant has private Teppanyaki dining rooms and shelves filled with ceramic sake bottles marked with Japanese inscriptions. You can see how your food is prepared on the grill, while you hear the distant sound of knives clashing against each other. There's a unique cocktail menu here with fun options, many made with sake, like a Godzilla Mura, prepared with sake, green tea-infused tequila, lemon juice and volcanic salt, or a Geisha Martini with sake, Midori, lemon juice, kiwi, and agave nectar.

The menu is meant to be shared, from fresh nigiri, maki, and sashimi to chicken curries and specialties, such as pork ribs braised in hoisin sauce, sake and oysters, or the "Mura Style" shrimp served with udon noodles, veggies and a sauce made with teriyaki and coconut milk. Desserts are original too, some containing tofu cheese or fried Ice cream that's covered in a deep-fried pastry and bathed in a chocolate and sake sauce.

Restaurant Unico Hotel

The night is young and there are plenty of options to let loose or to unwind at Unico 20 87, from a movie night by the pool to live music at Palmera lounge, a deck with Cuban vibes from the 1940s. We went for the wine and astronomy session, looking through a telescope at Jupiter's moons while enjoying a glass of red.

Next morning, breakfast can be delivered to your bed at no extra cost or you can visit 20°87° restaurant, which is located in front of the beach and surrounded by tropical greenery and palm trees. You can enjoy the ocean view from the comfort of an air-conditioned hall with massive glass walls, hanging chairs, and black and white chandeliers made from rope.

Spa Lobby of Unico 20 87 Hotel

While you listen to Arcade Fire or The Decemberists, you can choose food from the expansive buffet, including a Mexican corner with hand-made tacos and tostadas, a chef's station with crepes, hotcakes, and waffles prepared with fresh tropical fruits toppings, an omelet station, and counters filled with bagels, fresh salmon, cheeses, salads, fruits and pastries. For those inclined to start early, there's a mimosa and Bloody Mary station, too.

There's plenty more to explore or to get involved in during your stay at Unico Hotel 20 87. Activities are all optional, of course. But, whereas you can find relaxation, good food and a steady flow of alcohol at many of Mexico's all-inclusives, here it's also easy to pick up a new skill, play a fun game, or enjoy cocktails in the pool with a few newly made friends.

Web Address: www.unicohotelrivieramaya.com
Total Number of Rooms: 448
Published rates: $678 to $7,456 double, plus taxes

Review and photos by Andrea Moreno.


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